|Dover Quartet concludes its three-volume Beethoven journey for Cedille. |
permanent accomplishment so far. "Volume 3: The Late Quartets" brings its collection of Ludwig van Beethoven's 16 to a stunning conclusion.
The Dover's manner with the twelfth through fifteenth quartets, plus the "Great Fugue" (Grosse Fuge), is distinguished by pervasive lyricism, though the recurring tumult and wealth of surprises are not scanted.
One commentator has described the slow movement of Op. 132 as a demonstration of "how slow you can ride a bike without falling off." The Dover meets that difficult standard with the self-possession of star athletes. Violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, and cellist Camden Shaw illustrate both their precise coordination of pace and the gracefulness of every expressive gesture. As a result, the quartets' lengthiest movement doesn't drift into tedium: Heiliger Dankgesang is just as spiritually lofty as its title suggests.
In the Grosse Fuge, the thick underbrush of Beethoven's writing is made into a clear pathway without attempting to make light of all the machete hacking required to get through it all cohesively.
There is always balance in voicing, resembling a fine chamber choir, as in the maestoso introduction to op. 127. The score's call for "molto cantabile" in the second movement adheres to the demand for a singing quality, but the chromatic passages are never sentimentalized.
In another lyrical highlight, the "Cavatina" movement of op. 130, good control of vibrato allows the playing to throb with passion without coming close to smearing the makeup.
The vast expressive variety of these quartets gets due consideration. At the same time, the Dover impresses its personality on the music at every turn. It is expressively engaged, but avoids getting bogged down in overliteral pursuit of the composer's demands on the page.
For Beethoven in his total deafness, "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
are sweeter" (as John Keats asserted in his "Ode on a Grecian Urn"). This ensemble's performances acknowledge the strange beauty of that assertion while proclaiming the ineffable sweetness and lifelike energy of what we hear on these three discs.